As you may have heard already, "Law school is different." The language used, the skills needed, the teaching method used, the amount of time spent studying, and the testing styles are all very different from anything you experienced in your undergraduate program. Law school is really like traveling to a foreign country and immersing yourself in the language and culture without any preparation. Briefly addressed below are a few frequently asked questions to give you an idea about what you can expect at law school and what you can do this summer to prepare.
What is "Academic Support"? The Academic Support program helps all students develop the skills necessary to succeed in law school-skills that were not necessary in college. Think of it more as "Skills Support." We offer workshops, one-on-one counseling, tutoring, and books in the lending library.
- Workshops. There will be a series of workshops in the fall to help build skills, such as taking notes and briefing cases, time management, outlining, and strategies for taking exams.
- Individual conferences. There are drop-in office hours each week or you can make an appointment to meet and discuss your academic skills concerns. Want help making a study/life schedule that will work for you? Need help figuring out what learning style will work best for you? Think you need to increase your reading speed? Want advice on when and how to start outlines? We would be happy to help.
- Lending library. We have numerous study aids, supplements, and books in our library that you are welcome to check out at any time.
How is law school different? Law school is so different in language and structure that the skills you used to succeed in college need to be adjusted.
- Language. The language is different, which will slow down your reading speed. Res judicata. Preliminary injunction. Motion to recuse. Res ipsa loquitor. In the beginning, don't be surprised if it takes you an hour to read a ten-page case because you need to look up these strange words in the dictionary. This is normal, and your reading speed should increase as the semester progresses.
- Goals. While your aim in college was to learn the material such as facts and formulas, the goal of law school is to "think like a lawyer," which means taking information from the law and applying it in new situations and in new ways. Often, there is no definitive answer because the legal problem can be resolved from opposing perspectives. You should get used to the answer that "It depends."
- Workload. The amount of work necessary to succeed in law school is significantly more than that necessary in college. You will need to treat law school like a full-time job. That means preparing 2-4 hours for each hour of class. Every day. For most students, 12 hours per day, including reading, studying, reviewing, and attending class, is more than enough. You can certainly accomplish the same tasks in less time if you are efficient.
- Exams. In most first-year courses, your grade is primarily based on one final exam per substantive class. This exam is cumulative, and you will need to recognize which legal problems exist in the fact pattern and analyze how they can be resolved. Because the exam is cumulative, you should review frequently and never get behind in your reading. It is too hard to learn all the material right before the exam and too hard to catch up if you get behind in the reading.
Is there any time for fun? Of course! There are many social events here at the law school and you will have many opportunities to bond with your friends and future colleagues. Make sure that you do that. While the workload is considerably greater in law school, you will have personal time to relax, hang out with your new 1L friends, and explore beautiful Ithaca, as long as you use proper time management. You have to come up with a schedule that works for you. Some students sleep 8 hours a night, go to class and study for 12 hours a day, and have 4 hours per day to themselves. Most students also designate one large chunk of time on the weekends for decompressing (Friday night or Sunday morning, for example.) You may find that a different schedule works better for you, but one piece of advice is: never skimp on sleep. You can tell which students skimp on sleep by exam time, and they are usually the ones who burn out.
What can I do this summer to prepare for law school? This summer is a great time to prepare for law school, and here are a few things you can do.
- Typing speed. Work on increasing your typing speed and accuracy. Your ability to type both accurately and quickly will serve you well while drafting memos, working on outlines, and taking exams.
- Time management. Keep a log of how you spend your time. Write down everything you do and how long you do it every day for a week. You might find out that you spend 2 hours a day on Facebook, 4 hours a day watching TV, and an hour or more texting. Once you know this, work on managing your time better. Draft a workable schedule that sets attainable goals for each day and limits the amount of "fluff"time. Include time for adequate sleep (6-8 hours) and good meals.
- Read. There are many books on law school and exams, including Getting to Maybe by Fischl and Paul and Bridging the Gap between College and Law School by Stropus and Taylor. Getting to Maybe, which focuses on exams, will make more sense later in the semester, and you might want to re-read it over fall break. But it will also give you an idea of how to prepare for exams, which is what you must do from day one. Bridging the Gap will help you understand the differences between law school and college and the change you should make in your approach to studying.
- Take care of you. This summer is a great time to accomplish those pesky tasks that you may not have time for during law school. Go to the dentist. Have your car repaired. Establish a new sleep and workout routine that will help you manage stress in law school. But most important, have fun! Take a trip with your best friend. See every summer blockbuster. Read lots of fun novels. Go sing at karaoke night-that's a sure way to get over your jitters about speaking in class!
If you have any questions at all, please contact us. We are happy to help.
Director of Academic Support & Lecturer of Law
Dean of Students Suite
126F Hughes Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901